Album Review – Axel Rudi Pell / Knights Call (2018)

And Mr. Axel Rudi Pell strikes once again, delivering another entertaining collection of rock and metal tunes supported by his loyal army of skillful musicians.

If there’s a musician that truly loves what he does, that person has to be the iconic German Heavy Metal/Hard Rock guitarist Axel Rudi Pell. It’s incredible how consistent this accomplished guitar virtuoso is with his amazing solo band, not only by delivering top-tier music since the band’s inception in the far, far away year of 1989, but also by not taking too many years to record a new album. As a matter of fact, if you take a detailed look at the band’s complete discography, you’ll notice that every two years there’s a brand new Axel Rudi Pell full-length album released for our total delight. Furthermore, his creativity and ability to compose high-end music have been flourishing in the past decade, with the releases of the extremely well-crafted albums The Crest (2010),  Circle of the Oath (2012), Into the Storm (2014), Game of Sins (2016), and now in 2018 the excellent Knights Call, the 18th studio album in his undisputed career.

Featuring a traditional artwork by British illustrator Martin McKenna, who by the way has been working with the band since 2010 with the release of the aforementioned The Crest, the secret in Knights Call is not a secret at all, but the result of a lot of hard work, perfect synchronicity among all band members, and above all that, a solid and consistent lineup that has been accompanying Mr. Axel Rudi Pell for a while, comprised of the underrated Johnny Gioeli on vocals, Volker Krawczak on bass, Ferdy Doernberg on keyboards and Bobby Rondinelli on drums. Apart from Mr. Rondinelli, who joined the band in 2013, all others have been with Axel for a very long time, with Volker being a member of the band since the beginning in 1989 (and even before that if you consider his time with Steeler), while Johnny and Ferdy since 1998’s Oceans of Time. Actually, when you hit play and start listening to the flammable rock music blasted by those veterans in Knights Call, you can kind of feel how they know each other extremely well.

The Medieval Overture is  a classic medieval-inspired Axel Rudi Pell intro to the Rock N’ Roll feast titled The Wild And The Young, a song about getting old in style and having good memories of a time that’s never coming back (“Sometimes I’m dreaming of the past / Making love in the summer while it lasts / But life ain’t easy as it seemed / Much tougher and louder than I dreamed / I thought I was living in paradise / And those were the days of my life”), led by the unparalleled riffs by Mr. Axel Rudi Pell and the always flammable vocals by Johnny. Following such strong start we have Wildest Dreams, a keyboard-driven Hard Rock tune where Volker extracts rumbling sounds from his bass while the competent Bobby keeps the music at a very pleasant pace, bringing that characteristic sound from the band’s old releases; and Long Live Rock, their musical representation of our passion for Rock N’ Roll, or in other words, a tribute not only to themselves but to all rock and metal heroes of our lives, showcasing a thunderous kitchen by Volker and Bobby , with Ferdy complementing Axel’s metallic riffs and solos flawlessly.

Then it’s time for The Crusaders Of Doom, one of those imposing, epic creations by Axel and his henchmen, a mid-tempo song full of atmospheric keyboards and classy guitar lines, all embraced by a passionate vocal performance by the talented Johnny. Truth And Lies is another upbeat composition by the band, a 70’s-80’s-inspired instrumental party for lovers of Progressive Rock and Metal presenting gripping keys and the always mesmerizing riffs and solos by Axel, while in Beyond The Light Mr. Gioeli returns after a “break” with what’s most probably his strongest vocal performance of the album, powerfully declaiming the song’s lyrics (“Is there life beyond the light / In the valley of the souls we’d lost long ago / Is there life beyond the light / Only in our dreams or in reality”). Those guys definitely know how to craft beautiful and touching ballads, and this one is no exception to that.

Knights Call Limited Edition Boxset

Getting back to their 80’s Hard Rock sonority, Slaves On The Run is a straightforward tune presenting all elements we love in the music by Axel Rudi Pell, being a more than excellent option for their live concerts. Furthermore, Axel and Ferdy are once again in total sync, while Volker keeps pounding his bass in a very melodious way. The second to last song in Knights Call, Follow The Sun, brings more old school Rock N’ Roll and Heavy Metal for our avid ears, with the album’s crisp production allowing us to feel the beats by Bobby inside our heads while Johnny keeps firing his potent vocal lines, also bringing a chorus tailored for singing along with the band. And closing this very entertaining album we have a 9-minute aria of classic rock and metal with hints of Arabian music titled Tower Of Babylon, something we’ve seen the band doing before. You’ll find yourself wandering through the realms of epicness and intricacy forged by Axel and crew, with his guitar solos sounding absolutely hypnotizing.

After listening to Knights Call (and I’m sure that’s something I’ll be doing for a long time), I’m more than certain it’s quite impossible for Axel Rudi Pell to release a bad album. There are several versions of Knights Call available for purchase HERE, but if I were you I would go for the deluxe boxset which includes a red/black LP in gatefold cover and with printed innersleeve, a digipak CD + poster, a patch, a sticker, a photo card, a doople sided A1 poster, and a skull tin-cup with an engraving of the band logo. And after all is said and done, we can all rest assured that in less than two years we’ll be treated one more time to the captivating rock and metal music crafted by one of the best guitarists hailing from the beautiful Germany.

Best moments of the album: The Wild And The Young, Long Live Rock, Slaves On The Run and Follow The Sun.

Worst moments of the album: Truth And Lies.

Released in 2018 SPV/Steamhammer

Track listing  
1. The Medieval Overture (Intro) 1:43
2. The Wild And The Young 4:20
3. Wildest Dreams 5:43
4. Long Live Rock 5:34
5. The Crusaders Of Doom 8:01
6. Truth And Lies 4:48
7. Beyond The Light 7:45
8. Slaves On The Run 5:13
9. Follow The Sun 5:12
10. Tower Of Babylon 9:50

Band members
Johnny Gioeli – vocals
Axel Rudi Pell – guitar
Volker Krawczak – bass
Ferdy Doernberg – keyboards
Bobby Rondinelli – drums

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The Year In Review – Top 10 Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Albums of 2016

“I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring.” – David Bowie

The unexpected death of the most badass musician in history, Motörhead’s heart and soul Lemmy Kilmister, on December 28, 2015 was a harbinger of all the bad, shocking and revolting things that would turn the year of 2016 a true nightmare for mankind. That dark prophecy was confirmed less than two weeks later, more specifically on January 10 when we lost another true star in rock music to cancer, the unparalleled chameleon David Bowie, just two days after the release of his final masterpiece Blackstar. If that was not enough to make 2016 a miserable year, we also had to endure the passing of other icons who, despite not being metal, have always inspired countless bands and artists in heavy music. We lost Prince, Leonard Cohen and Keith Emerson (Emerson, Lake & Palmer), to name a few, all irreplaceable losses to music in general. In addition, important names in the history of Heavy Metal also left us in 2016, such as Nick Menza (Megadeth) and Jimmy Bain (Rainbow, Dio), not to mention the disbandment of amazing groups like Eths (who are by the way part of our top 10 this year), Crucified Barbara and Bolt Thrower. And I’m not even going to talk about all other types of disasters and tragedies that happened all over the world, as the list is too macabre and grievous to be remembered in full.

Fortunately, 2016 was considerably generous for us headbangers in terms of the quantity and quality of albums released throughout the entire year, especially for diehard fans of old school Thrash Metal. Except for Slayer and Exodus, all other prominent names in Thrash Metal blasted the world with their high-speed, thrilling music, led by another superb album by Testament. Even Metallica released a decent album this year, just to give you an idea of how fruitful 2016 was for this rebellious type of music. Having said that, it’s time for The Headbanging Moose’s Top 10 Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Albums of 2016, excluding EP’s, best of’s and live albums. And even if 2017 is as hideous as 2016, let’s never forget the wise words by Bill S. Preston, Esquire and Ted “Theodore” Logan. Be excellent to each other, and party on, dudes!

testament_brotherhood-of-the-snake1. Testament – Brotherhood Of The Snake (REVIEW)
Join the Brotherhood of Thrash Metal spearheaded by one of the heaviest, most technical and most electrifying bands on the entire planet.
Best song of the album: The Number Game

cover2. Charred Walls Of The Damned – Creatures Watching Over the Dead (REVIEW)
A magnificent lecture in Heavy Metal by four electrified beasts.
Best song of the album: As I Catch My Breath

Cover3. Eths – Ankaa (REVIEW)
One of the most prominent and innovative French bands of all time returns with a true masterpiece of complexity, darkness and heaviness.
Best song of the album: Nefas

cover4. Primal Fear – Rulebreaker (REVIEW)
Who said rules must be broken for a metallic eagle to spread its wings and soar high in the skies of heavy music?
Best song of the album: Rulebreaker

megadeth_dystopia5. Megadeth – Dystopia (REVIEW)
And the dystopian world portrayed in the brand new album by the iconic Dave Mustaine and his Thrash Metal army is beyond awesome.
Best song of the album: Lying In State

abbathsoloface_6386. Abbath – Abbath (REVIEW)
The one and only Abbath takes a new step in his career with a brand new band an album.
Best song of the album: Fenrir Hunts

death angel_the evil divide7. Death Angel – The Evil Divide (REVIEW)
Fast and furious anthems, dark mid-tempo songs, austere lyrics and endless stamina. This is how Thrash Metal should always be done.
Best song of the album: Hell To Pay

anthrax_for all kings8. Anthrax – For All Kings (REVIEW)
A classy and electrifying Thrash Metal album especially crafted for all of us, the real kings of heavy music.
Best song of the album: Breathing Lightning

front9. Axel Rudi Pell – Game of Sins (REVIEW)
You might be a sinner, but don’t be a fool and go relish another magnificent album by Mr. Axel Rudi Pell and his loyal henchmen.
Best song of the album: Falling Star

nervosa-agony-201610. Nervosa – Agony (REVIEW)
Brazil’s meanest power trio returns with another marvelous blast of their kick-ass high-octane Thrash Metal.
Best song of the album: Theory of Conspiracy

And here we have the runner-ups, completing the top 20 for the year:

11. Blaze Bayley – Infinite Entanglement (REVIEW)
12. The Silent Rage – The Deadliest Scourge (REVIEW)
13. Neverworld – Dremasnatcher (REVIEW)
14. Ancesttral – Web Of Lies (REVIEW)
15. Front – Iron Overkill (REVIEW)
16. Dö – Tuho (REVIEW)
17. Be Under Arms – Doomed To Life (REVIEW)
18. SystemHouse33 – Regression (REVIEW)
19. Gojira – Magma (REVIEW)
20. False Coda – Secrets and Sins (REVIEW)

As in Heavy Metal the artwork is just as important as the music itself, like what always happens with bands such as Iron Maiden, Megadeth, Metallica, KISS and tons of other metallic titans, we decided to list the Top 10 Cover Artworks of 2016. There are several reasons for an album art to be considered outstanding, such as its strong connection with the music like Iron Maiden’s Powerslave, its visual impact (usually associated with its controversial content) like Slayer’s God Hates Us All, or its perfect minimalism and finesse like Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon. Do you agree with our list?

1. Anthrax – For All Kings [by Alex Ross]
2. Primeval Mass – To Empyrean Thrones [by Karmazid]
3. Witches Of Doom – Deadlights [by Carlo Muselli]
4. Ragehammer – The Hammer Doctrine [by Robert A. von Ritter]
5. Howls Of Ebb – Cursus Impasse: The Pendlomic Vows [by Agostino Arrivabene]
6. Testament – Brotherhood Of The Snake [by Eliran Kantor]
7. Henriette B – Tales of Reality (EP) [by Pierre-Alain D.]
8. Skáphe – Skáphe² [by H.V. Lyngdal]
9. Diabolizer – Apokalypse (MCD) [by Robert A. von Ritter]
10. Hostis – Hostis [by Zvonimir Grabić & Milena Nićić]

Rest assured in 2017 we at The Headbanging Moose will keep providing you the best of the underworld of Death, Thrash, Black, Symphonic, Epic, Power Metal and all other genres and subgenres of heavy music, as well as our view of the biggest names worldwide. There are already brand new albums confirmed for 2017 by Kreator, Sepultura, Grave Digger, Battle Beast and more, which means at least musically the new year promises to be really good. Thank you very much for your precious time, and keep on rockin’! Au revoir!

Metal Xmas and a Headbanging New Year! See you in 2017!

Well, before we go, here’s a special gift from Iron Maiden to all metalheads all over the world… A nice festive yule log fireplace to keep our hearts warm during the entire season!

Album Review – Axel Rudi Pell / Game of Sins (2016)

You might be a sinner, but don’t be a fool and go relish another magnificent album by the one and only Mr. Axel Rudi Pell and his loyal henchmen.

Rating3

frontWe’re not even a full month into 2016, and here come the unstoppable guitarist Axel Rudi Pell and his crew of accomplished musicians to provide us an album that will most probably feature among our top releases of 2016 when the year is over, and I’m not fooling around when I say that. Game of Sins, the seventeenth studio album by this iconic Heavy Metal/Hard Rock guitar virtuoso from Germany, is not only a full-bodied album full of catchy and thrilling chants, but the outstanding performances by Axel Rudi Pell, by keyboardist Ferdy Doernberg and especially by frontman Johnny Gioeli (owner of one of the sharpest voices in heavy music) make this a must-have album for admirers of classy heavy and rock music.

To be fair, Game of Sins is not very different from what Mr. Axel Rudi Pell and his loyal henchmen did in the excellent Into the Storm, in 2014, but that doesn’t mean you’ll experience that awkward feeling of “been there, done that” while listening to it. Quite the contrary, it’s truly amazing how this incredible band is capable of always renovating themselves without losing their essence, just like what the biggest rock and metal icons such as AC/DC, Motörhead and Judas Priest do. That’s what keeps the band alive and on fire, and their music flowing smoothly and magnificently through the years.

The jester-ish intro Lenta Fortuna invites the listener to play the so-called “game of sins” with Axel Rudi Pell, and what a fun game that’s going to be starting with the high-octane Fire, a perfect opening for their live performances with its incandescent rhythm and Mr. Pell delivering his trademark riffs and solos. It takes less than five seconds for Lucifer to rise when the music starts, and I dare you not to sing the chorus along with Mr. Gioeli so catchy it is. And the masters of Hard Rock and Rock N’ Roll strike again with yet another “road hymn” entitled Sons in the Night, highly recommmended for riding your badass Harley-Davidson with your girl. Furthermore, although Bobby Rondinelli might not be an unstoppable stone crusher behind his drums, he’s surely a high-skilled drummer that adds a lot of groove to the music with his spot-on beats.

ARPOne constant element found throughout the entire album is the ominous ambience crafted by Ferdy with his awesome keyboard notes, and the title-track Game of Sins is an excellent example of that. This is a heavy semi-ballad that lives up to Mr. Pell’s legacy, with highlights to its fun lyrics about how our lives are an endless gambling game; before “Two Minutes to Midnight”-ish riffs kick off the best track of the album, the exhilarating Falling Star, another classic tune to sing along with the band (in special its beautiful chorus). Moreover, it doesn’t matter if you’re driving down the Sunset Strip on a hot summer day or facing a hideous snow storm at the peak of the winter, this electrifying song will definitely cheer you up.

I always say Axel Rudi Pell is a Hard Rock ballad deity, obviously taking into account the fact that he got even better after Johnny joined the band years ago. With every single album released we get at least one heartwarming tune to soothe our souls and make the toughest days a little easier to face, which in Game of Sins comes in the form of the powerful Lost in Love. How can someone not feel relaxed listening to such a good song? Anyway, the following track, The King of Fools, is a bit generic for what the band is capable of doing, albeit far from being a bad song. It contains those cliché lyrics we tend to disdain at first, but that end up working relatively well due to the way Johnny declaims them (“He was the toughest guy on our street / Always ready to fight / His girl’s a hooker on her knees / Making money all night”).

In Till the World Says Goodbye, Ferdy and Johnny steal the spotlight with their piercing keyboards and passionate vocals, respectively. Heavy and rhythmic, it’s another excellent choice for singing along with Johnny or simply enjoying his brilliant voice, followed by Breaking the Rules, a pure Axel Rudi Pell song that will put you to jump up and down during the band’s live performances thanks to the amazing job done by Volker Krawczak, rumbling his bass guitar in total sync with Bobby’s beats while Axel keeps firing his upscale guitar lines.

ARP_Game of Sins_Special Edition

Game Of Sins Limited Edition Boxset

Finally, he last two songs of the album are an ode to first-class rock music. Forever Free offers us all one of the most emotional vocal performances I can think of, which combined with Axel’s guitar solos, the song’s melodious atmosphere and its stunning lyrics turn it into one of the best songs of the band’s latest albums without a shadow of a doubt. Not only I love the feeling this song brings forth, but can I personally dedicate it to the chameleon David Bowie (R.I.P.)? And what to say about All Along the Watchtower, a magnificent tribute to Mr. Bob Dylan (check out the original version HERE)? Its intro gives me goosebumps, as well as the dynamism that Axel added to his version of this classic, proving why he’s also considered by many an undisputed lord of cover songs.

In summary, Game of Sins, another solid stone added to Axel Rudi Pell’s fortress of Rock N’ Roll, is one of those albums you’ll feel happy anywhere and anytime you listen to it, no matter what you are doing. You might be a sinner, but don’t be a fool and go grab your copy of this soulful album (take a listen at snippets of it HERE) as soon as possible, especially if it’s the jaw-dropping Game Of Sins Limited Edition Boxset (limited to 1000 copies worldwide), featuring the album in a special digipak format and as a two-LP gatefold sleeve, a beautiful miniature replica Fender Stratocaster guitar (scale 1:4) including a guitar giftbox case, a poster, a sticker and a card. It can’t get any better than this, thanks once again to the one and only Mr. Axel Rudi Pell.

Best moments of the album: Fire, Falling Star, Forever Free and All Along the Watchtower.

Worst moments of the album: The King of Fools.

Released in 2016 SPV/Steamhammer

Track listing
1. Lenta Fortuna (Intro) 1:24
2. Fire 5:34
3. Sons in the Night 5:07
4. Game of Sins 8:43
5. Falling Star 5:14
6. Lost in Love 6:07
7. The King of Fools 4:58
8. Till the World Says Goodbye 7:40
9. Breaking the Rules 5:07
10. Forever Free 8:29

Limited Edition bonus track
11. All Along the Watchtower (Bob Dylan cover) 6:03

Band members
Johnny Gioeli – vocals
Axel Rudi Pell – guitar
Volker Krawczak – bass
Ferdy Doernberg – keyboards
Bobby Rondinelli – drums

The Year In Review – Top 10 Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Albums of 2014

“May the New Year bring you courage to break your resolutions early! My own plan is to swear off every kind of virtue, so that I triumph even when I fall!” – Aleister Crowley, Moonchild

It’s with these inspiring words found in the occult novel Moonchild, written by British occultist, poet and novelist Aleister Crowley in 1917, that The Headbanging Moose reaches another year end. Well, not before celebrating heavy music, which is the essence of this webzine, right? In order to honour all metal bands and musicians who made our year a lot more fun, here is The Headbanging Moose’s Top 10 Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Albums of 2014, excluding of course EP’s, best of and live albums. Party on, dudes!

Redeemer-of-souls-album-cover-art-12801. Judas Priest – Redeemer of Souls (REVIEW)
The Metal Gods are finally back with another marvellous sonic storm forged in the fires of pure Heavy Metal.
Best song of the album: Halls Of Valhalla

Primalfeardeliveringtheblack20142. Primal Fear – Delivering the Black (REVIEW)
Primal Fear once again deliver the awesome with their tenth studio album, their best since Seven Seals.
Best song of the album: King For A Day

Triptykon-Melana-Chasmata3. Triptykon – Melana Chasmata (REVIEW)
One of the most expected albums of 2014 is a beautiful mix of Gothic, Black and especially Doom Metal as grandiose as they can be.
Best song of the album: Boleskine House

ExodusBloodInBloodOut4. Exodus – Blood In, Blood Out (REVIEW)
American Thrash Metal masters deliver us another great lesson in Thrash Metal. Welcome back to the family, Zetro!
Best song of the album: Blood In, Blood Out

Cover5. Axel Rudi Pell – Into the Storm (REVIEW)
A fantastic “storm” of heavy riffs and solos by one of the best Hard Rock/Heavy Metal guitar players from Germany.
Best song of the album: Burning Chains

accept-blind rage6. Accept – Blind Rage (REVIEW)
And we salute Accept for another wonderful metal album, the third installment in this new amazing Accept-era.
Best song of the album: Dying Breed

ESCAPETOR - Fear cover art7. Escapetor – Fear (REVIEW)
A serious contender for “Thrash Metal Album of the Year”, as heavy, invigorating and awesome as it can be.
Best song of the album: The Queen

vandenplas_chronicles8. Vanden Plas – Chronicles of the Immortals – Netherworld (REVIEW)
Get ready for an amazing journey in this new Rock Opera Album.
Best song of the album: The King and the Children of Lost World

godsmack_1000hp9. Godsmack – 1000hp (REVIEW)
Lots of horsepower, groove, great riffs and strong vocal lines are just some of the things you’ll find in this amazing rock album.
Best song of the album: 1000hp

10. Phantom – …Of Gods and Men (REVIEW)
With huge doses of blood, iron, sweat, steel and fire, this Canadian power trio delivers an indie Heavy Metal masterpiece for our total delight.
Best song of the album: Blood & Iron

And here we have the runner-ups completing the top 20:

11. Behemoth – The Satanist (REVIEW)
12. Cannibal Corpse – A Skeletal Domain (REVIEW)
13. Humbucker – King of the World (REVIEW)
14. Insomnium – Shadows Of The Dying Sun (REVIEW)
15. Crucified Barbara – In The Red (REVIEW)
16. Gamma Ray – Empire of the Undead (REVIEW)
17. Motorjesus – Electric Revelation (REVIEW)
18. Lordi – Scare Force One (REVIEW)
19. Dimenzion:Psychosphere – Collapse (REVIEW)
20. Anti-Mortem – New Southern (REVIEW)

One of our recent reviews mentioned the law of conservation of mass by French chemist Antoine Lavoisier, which states that “Nothing is lost, nothing is created, everything is transformed.”  With that said, why not innovating a little and listing the Top 10 Cover Songs of 2014? Because in the end it’s metal bands working towards the conservation of heavy music. Let me tell you all those cover versions are amazing, but the first two go beyond that, they’re just perfect.

1. Axel Rudi Pell – Hey Hey My My (Neil Young cover)
2. Escapetor – Folsom Prison Blues (Johnny Cash cover)
3. Iron Savior – Dance With Somebody (Mando Diao cover)
4. Van Canto – The Final Countdown (Europe cover)
5. Ektomorf – I Hate You (Verbal Abuse cover)
6. Anti-Mortem – A Little Too Loose (Mr. Big Cover)
7. Endzeit – The Dawn No More Rises (Dark Funeral cover)
8. Axel Rudi Pell – Way to Mandalay (Blackmore’s Night cover)
9. Humbucker – Wine, Women An’ Song (Whitesnake cover)
10. Exodus – Angel Of Death (Angel Witch cover)

Also, in 2014 we were able to witness so many impressive releases from new and not so new independent bands (or at least not signed to major record labels) such as Orisonata, SouLost, GoatchristValknacht, Ann My Guard, Septekh, Way Of Changes, Henriette BMisanthrope Monarch, Witches Of Doom, Phobiatic, Prayed and Betrayed, Temple Of Void, Maahlas, Laugh At The Fakes, Lelahell, Diablery, Humbucker, Phantom, No Sin Evades His Gaze, Endzeit, among tons of other awesome bands and artists, it’s hard to name just a few. They’re indeed a huge slap to the face of those idiots who keep saying heavy music is dead and gone. Just Google those bands or search for them here at The Headbanging Moose and you’ll see what I’m talking about. Some of them even made it to the top10/20 list, as you can see.

You can check The Headbanging Moose’s playlist Top 10 Hard Rock & Heavy Metal Albums of 2014 @ Songza, with the best songs from each band of the list above, as well as amazing songs from lots of independent bands who rocked the world in 2014. And, of course, do not forget to listen to the weekly episodes of The Metal Moose Show by the Metal Moose Radio. Support you local bands… AND FOLLOW THE MOOSE!

And last but not least, before the Headbanging Moose goes into “hibernation” until the beginning of 2015, I’ll leave you guys with a song that’s way better than any of that Christmas garbage shoved down our throats every fuckin’ year. This song says it all.

Metal Xmas and a Headbanging New Year! See you in 2015!

Album Review – Axel Rudi Pell / Into the Storm (2014)

A fantastic “storm” of heavy riffs and solos by one of the best Hard Rock/Heavy Metal guitar players from Germany.

Rating3

CoverAs I mentioned here, 2014 is becoming an excellent year for Heavy Metal. The 53-year old German guitar player Axel Rudi Pell, who has been on the road since 1981, has just released his sixteenth studio album, Into the Storm, and the final result is so pleasant that it will be hard for any headbanger not to enjoy it.

The only change in the band from the previous albums, since 1998, is Bobby Rondinelli on drums replacing the beast Mike Terrana, but that didn’t affect the quality of the music negatively: Mr. Axel Rudi Pell is one of those guys that really masters the art of shredding and playing amazing solos without sounding stupid or arrogant, and that also uses his gift to leverage the whole band’s potential instead of only showing off himself, making the final result always above average.

After the nice intro The Inquisitorial Procedure, the band already provides us one of the top moments of the album with the song Tower of Lies, which sounds like a Heavy Metal tune from the 80’s with  excellent riffs and Johnny Gioeli doing a superb job on vocals, and of course a unique solo from Pell. The energy level remains high with Long Way To Go, a pure Hard Rock composition which reminds me of some old Axel Rudi Pell songs, and it’s also a highly recommended track for a road trip or for a sports TV commercial. Then comes Burning Chains, another one of my favorites with its awesome intro and constant duo between Mr. Pell on the guitar and Ferdy Doernberg on the keyboards. This song will become a fan favorite for sure, especially for the band’s live performances.

The amazing ballad When Truth Hurts has beautiful lyrics and shows another great performance by Johnny on vocals, and easily explains why Mr. Pell already has four ballad albums in his career. The guy is a “ballad genius”! Things speed up with Changing Times and its cool keyboards, dirty riffs and another classic solo, while Touching Heaven, despite being a good quality Hard Rock song, doesn’t add much to the album. The same happens with High Above: the rest of the album is so awesome that this song sounds weak compared to the others, although it’s pretty good too. The way, this song is probably what Bon Jovi could have been doing if he had a heavier approach or a guitar player like Mr. Pell by his side.

Axel Rudi Pell 2014Hey Hey My My is an outstanding version for one of Neil Young’s greatest hits, with Johnny doing a brilliant job one more time. That’s one of those songs that confirms why this excellent American singer has been with the band for such a long time, since the album Oceans Of Time. The last song of the album is the title-track, Into the Storm, an epic song with a great atmosphere in its more than 10 minutes of duration and another good example of how to compose long songs without sounding boring after a while. Furthermore, the digipak edition brings two very interesting bonus tracks: the instrumental White Cats (Opus #6 Scivolare), and a cover version for Ritchie Blackmore’s Way to Mandalay, most probably as a tribute to one of Mr. Pell’s biggest influences.

And last but not least, I was going to give Into the Storm a 3.5, but I couldn’t find a reason not to give it a 4.0 after listening to it for a couple of times. Besides, the album art is so marvelous that it helped raise the album’s rating a little. As previously mentioned, it’s hard to find an album in the career of this great German guitar player that doesn’t make you start playing air guitar, bang your head or simply sing along with his beautiful ballads. I don’t know if Into the Storm is going to be one of the best albums of 2014, but I know that it will be hard for most of the other bands to beat it in terms of quality, musicality and feeling.

Best moments of the album: Tower of Lies, Burning Chains, When Truth Hurts and Hey Hey My My.

Worst moments of the album: Touching Heaven and High Above.

Released in 2014 SPV/Steamhammer

Track listing
1. The Inquisitorial Procedure (intro) 1:48
2. Tower of Lies 4:26
3. Long Way To Go 5:32
4. Burning Chains 5:23
5. When Truth Hurts 6:46
6. Changing Times 6:05
7. Touching Heaven 7:02
8. High Above 4:49
9. Hey Hey My My (Neil young cover) 5:02
10. Into the Storm 10:35

Digipak edition bonus tracks
11. White Cats (Opus #6 Scivolare) 4:54
12. Way to Mandalay (Blackmore’s Night cover) 7:52

Band members
Axel Rudi Pell – guitar
Johnny Gioeli – vocals
Volker Krawczak – bass
Bobby Rondinelli – drums
Ferdy Doernberg – keyboards